Researchers develop ‘digital twin’ of human implants

A University of Sydney team is is developing a surgical planning tool to assist surgeons in planning complex jawbone reconstruction procedures using new generation medical devices such as bone regrowth bio-scaffolds.

The scaffolds (editors note: similar to those made by Australian company Osteopore) are used instead of traditional titanium implants in jaw or orthognathic surgery after severe trauma, and can promote healing, later dissolving into the bloodstream leaving natural bone.

Ben Ferguson (pictured), a PhD student in the University of Sydney’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, is developing a planning tool using advanced computational and decision-making algorithms that generate a ‘digital twin’ of the patient using CT scan data.

It then rapidly simulates different designs of the implant before 3-D printing the final, optimal design, allowing surgeons to perform a digital ‘rehearsal’ prior to theatre.

Ferguson said it would be unthinkable to construct a building without running an engineering simulation, and similarly surgeons should have the best tools so they are set up for success.

He said: “A bone implant design may work in one patient, but it may fail in another.

“If it was you – you would probably want a team of surgeons and biomedical engineers to run a simulation and assessment of the medical device in your body before it is actually implanted.”

Ferguson’s supervisor, Professor Qing Li, said the simulation data could also assist the surgeon in optimising the medical device’s design.

The researchers recently partnered with Professor Jonathan Clark AM, Chair of Head and Neck Cancer Reconstructive Surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to help translate the new technology into a clinical reality.

Picture: Professor Qing Li and Ben Ferguson

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